I remember dark cold nights as a parent with screaming teething kids or sick kids who would not sleep, at about 3-4am it feels like the darkest time, the bleakest time when emotional and energy resources are spent, and a sense of desperation has sometimes set in.
And yet there is the light of dawn just around the corner. I remember seeing the first hints of the sunrise and almost instantaneously feeling like life was not so desperate after all.
Similarly, after the bleak section from Romans 1:18-3:20 in which Paul has been at pains to detail our human problem of sin, Romans 3:21 is a new dawn of unspeakable joy!
No one is righteous; no one is good enough; no one can be justified through law-keeping…BUT NOW.
What glorious words. A new era has dawned. A seismic shift has occurred in salvation history and now everything is different forever and ever.
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
- No one is righteous (morally right & or right before God) (vs9-18)
- No one can be made righteous through law-keeping (vs20)
- But now a righteousness from God has been revealed (vs21)
- The whole Old Testament hinted at its coming… (vs21)
- A righteousness of God that comes through faith in Jesus Christ (vs22&26)
- A righteousness that is a gift (vs24)
- A righteousness graciously bestowed on those who believe in Jesus because of Jesus’ self-sacrificial act of averting the wrath of God that should have been spent on us by taking it on Himself (propitiation/atonement). (vs25)
- A righteousness that results in that person not just being declared right before God but also freed (redeemed) from their prior slavery to sin, Satan & death. (vs24)
Our salvation is entirely unmerited. We did not initiate it or deserve it; God stepped in to do what we could not do. In giving us Jesus as our atoning sacrifice, God gave us Himself to save us from Himself, His impending wrath against our sinfulness, so that He could save us for Himself, to be in right relationship with Him forever.
God worked salvation in such a way that as the Holy God, He could somehow be both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (vs26). The cross of Christ was the only way for God to be both just & the justifier of those who trusted in Jesus’ saving work for them on the cross.
After all, God would not have been just in forgiving sinners if He had not substituted Himself in our place for our sin. Someone had to pay the penalty for sin for God to be just, and yet God did that for you and me. God Himself took on Himself the penalty for sin SO THAT He could justify us, declare us to now be not guilty of the sin we had done. God could do this and still be just because the guilt, shame and punishment that was ours had been transferred onto Him on the cross so that He paid it in full SO THAT we could have His righteousness transferred to us making us right with God.
As 2 Corinthians 5:20 (NIV) summarises;
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Praise Him. Thank Him. Worship Him. Love Him. Live your whole life for Him.
Jesus’ trial before Pilate oozes truth about Jesus’ true identity and His purpose on the earth.
“I find no guilt in him” (18:38) – Pilate said.
And yet, he released the real criminal, the sinner.
And so Barabbas walked free, a fore-runner of you and me!
Yet the innocent One was condemned – all of our gospel story.
Pilate had Jesus flogged by soldiers, they mocked Jesus mercilessly.
Jesus was silent just as had been prophesied (Isaiah 53:7)
Pilate then repeated same verdict two more times; “I find no guilt in him”! (vs4&6)
Dripping with irony, Jesus is accused of claiming to be exactly who He was – God! (vs7)
Pilate then questions Jesus again and lectures Jesus on authority!
Jesus replies; “You would have no authority over me unless it had been given to you from above.” (vs11)
Pilate shivers in his boots & tries to release Jesus again having found nothing wrong with Him, but the Jews revolt…
Pilate pronounces the truth about Jesus to those present, “Behold your King!” (vs14)
But Jesus is rejected by the Jews again, they don’t want Him as king they want him dead.
Pilate re-checks with those present, proclaiming truth as he does; “Shall I crucify your King?” (vs15)
Blasphemously they cry out; “We have no king but Caesar!” (vs15)
And so Jesus was condemned to die by crucifixion.
Pilate, God’s agent in the moment states the truth again as he inscribes on the cross; “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (vs19)
The Jewish officials try to get Pilate to change the wording to soften it’s meaning
Pilate would not budge; “What I have written, I have written.” (vs22)
Jesus, King of all kings, came to die in our place for our sin, the Lamb of God, the suffering servant, He the sinless One was bound so we could be freed, He was crushed for our iniquities and the punishment that God put on Him paid the way for us to be forgiven, His death and resurrection gave you and me life! Behold your King!
Jesus didn’t justify Himself, didn’t defend himself against His accusers, would’t speak in his own defence to Pilate’s amazement. Why? Jesus would not justify or defend Himself, in order that He could justify and defend from the accuser, those who trust in Him.
Jesus the sinless One was mocked, whipped, beaten and ultimately crucified in our place for our sin, while the sinner (Barabbas) walked free! The One deserving of only praise substituted Himself and took the punishment that was only ours to bear.
Jesus saved us by not saving Himself (vs29-32)
Jesus was taunted; “save yourself!” People thought Jesus’ death was a sign of Jesus’ lack of power, thought it was a moment of Jesus’ defeat and yet it was Jesus’ power and strength, His power of the will that kept Him there not a lack of power. Jesus could have at any moment called upon a host of angels to save Himself from the cross and the mocking. But Jesus endured the cross scorning its shame for the joy of what lay ahead if He did (Hebrews 12:2) – the joy of redeeming us and restoring us to a right relationship with Him. Jesus didn’t save Himself so that He could save you and me.
Forsaken so we could be adopted (vs33-34)
In what I believe must be the most chilling, shocked words in all of Scripture, Jesus cries out to the Father; “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus was forsaken, abandoned in that moment by the Father & the Spirit as the sin of the whole world rested on Him, so that those who put their trust in Him would never be forsaken by the Father ever. Jesus was forsaken so that we who trust in Him could be adopted and would belong to the Father forever.
Access granted (vs37-39)
Jesus endured all of this, so that the way to God could be opened up forever. Nothing remains between God and those Jesus has forgiven. We are sons and daughters of the most High God, we belong in His presence, we have access, we have His heart and His attention. We have no need of a sacrifice system or a priesthood, we have benefitted from the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus and we have one mediator between ourselves and God – Jesus Christ.
Praise Jesus! There is no one like you Jesus. None can compare. Thank you for salvation, thank you for bearing everything that should have been ours and for giving us what we did not deserve.
Paul has been boasting about these Thessalonian believers to other churches. He has been encouraged by their growing faith and love, and also by their steadfastness and faith in the midst of the persecution and the affliction they have had to endure because of their faith.
“Faith under fire becomes faith refined by the fire.”
But what comfort is there for those who are being treated unjustly, persecuted because of their faith in Christ?
“…indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven…” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-7)
What comfort is there? Scripture answers that God is just. Implied here is that our Father God who is the righteous all-knowing judge of all sees everything that is done and that which is not done that ought to have been done. God is just, because God will afflict those who have afflicted His children.
And so the knowledge that God is just gives relief/rest to one who has been unjustly treated or who has seen their loved ones unjustly treated.
We are often tempted to make premature assessments, in this life. It can and does sometimes look like the unjust go unpunished, seemingly unaffected by their sin and seemingly free from consequences despite the despicable things they have inflicted on others. Our systems of justice often let people down as the justice they deserve slips away into the cracks of our sin-broken societal systems of justice.
But for those who call God ‘Father’ there will be justice. Our Father will act on our behalf and knowing this relieves us of any need to attempt to ‘repay evil with evil’ (1 Thessalonians 5:15).
Rather, we can and should forgive people. As we do, we are stopping that thing they did from continuing to rob or hurt us into the future. Forgiving people sets the forgiver free, and leaves the forgiven before the God of all the earth – who is just.
Ask Father God right now. Is there anyone I need to forgive?
Choose now to set yourself free, choose now to stop allowing that thing from continuing to impact your life. Thank your Father that He is just.
When though? You might say, well I haven’t seen God being just yet!
I believe there are times when we do see the justice of God in this lifetime come upon people, but this passage is very clear that the time everyone will know that God is just is on the day when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with attending angels and flames of fire (vs7-8).
On that day God the righteous judge will ‘inflict vengeance/retribution’ (vs8) on those who wronged his children (implied by the context) and specifically on those who rejected Jesus Christ.
Note how God is the active agent here, God the righteous just judge is the One inflicting retribution. This clear teaching in Scripture confronts the unbiblical popular notion that the God of Scripture is some wishy washy dispenser of ‘love’ or that it is loving to the victim to let the wicked go unpunished for the sin done to them!
And yet on this same day that Jesus comes back in all His glory, on this day when the unrighteous who rejected Christ will face the punishment for their sin (vs9) and will be shut out from the presence of God forever and ever, on that same day those of us who believed in Jesus will be glorying in Jesus, will be marvelling at Jesus in all His revealed splendour and majesty (vs10)!
May, you believe, may you ask Jesus Himself to forgive you of the wrong you’ve done before that Day. May you and I reach out to EVERYONE we can while we still can with the good news that anyone can join that happy crowd (vs10) if they will only bow the knee now and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour and ask Him to forgive them of their sin.
For if you do accept Jesus, God is just, and so will forgive you of your sin, you will not face any punishment for whatever you did, because God already punished that sin when Jesus died on the cross in your place for your sin, and so God will be just to save you and welcome you into a glorious eternity with Him.
Have you crossed the line of faith and put your faith in Jesus and asked Him to forgive you of all your sin?
Ask the Holy Spirit now to put people on your heart who don’t yet believe in Jesus, pray for them and DO ANYTHING the Holy Spirit leads you to do…
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15)
In writing to the Colossian church, Paul is appealing strongly for them to be united with one another and to be at peace with one another. Having urged them to put to death, to put away all sorts of sinful behaviour which is no longer befitting of a community of Christ followers (Chapter 3:5-11) he then begins to exhort them regarding the lives that are appropriate for the church of God (Chapter 3:12-4:5).
In our individualised era it is worth remembering that these are all instructions to a community of faith, the church, not just to individuals. All of these exhortations require a community and many of them assume we are immersed in a sinful community, working out faith and life in this age with all its brokeness!
After all, you don’t need to be compassionate unless there is hurt or pain or sickness or death, you don’t need to be exhorted to be kind normally unless you’re needing to do so despite someone’s unkind behaviour, you don’t need patience unless someone is irritating you or slow to change, you don’t need forgive unless you’ve been sinned against or hurt in some way…
Churches can be hotbeds for conflict & hurt!
Churches can be hotbeds for conflict & hurt. This is because any relationship opens us up to both the opportunity to be loved and known and also the possibility of inflicting and or having hurt inflicted on us. So, as a whole church sometimes rather slowly work out their salvation in close proximity to one another it can get quite messy relationally!
The bible is so real. This is what we experience in the church is it not? I don’t know about you but personally I am constantly aware of my need to change. Sadly I let people down, I hurt people or disappoint them probably in more way that I know. As a result I am aware of my great need to be more like Christ and less and less like the old me. Well, when you multiply that personal experience by a couple hundred people in a church – you end up with ample opportunity for tripping over each other relationally.
Therefore we are exhorted to remember that we are God’s chosen ones (vs12) – we ourselves are precious to God and so is that person you are so mad at! Remembering how precious someone is to God, how their heavenly Father sees them helps us to get a different perspective. That person might have done something terrible but they are God’s beloved child still. It is good to ask ourselves in times like this; “How aligned are our thoughts to His thoughts about them?”
Scripture exhorts us teaching us that we are to be compassionate, kind, patient, humble, meek with one another because God has been all these things to us. You could say that we are to preach the gospel to ourselves continuously, reminding ourselves of what God has done for us. If we do, it will fill us with fresh grace for those who just like us are also progressing in the faith rather inelegantly at times.
In this passage, Paul points back to the gospel charging us that we are to forgive one another ‘as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive’ (vs13). Reminding ourselves of the gospel and that we have had all our sins forgiven, serves us by humbling us, reminding us that we are like “THEM” who have hurt or sinned against us, it puts us in the same boat as them which ought to result in humility, grace, mercy and forgiveness being extended to them by us, just as God extended all of these to us in Jesus.
Paul’s impassioned plea for the church is that we ought to be characterised by peace as a community of believers. Dick Lucas has said;
“Now the rule of Christ is the rule of peace. It is inconceivable that those who share with one another the benefits of that great peace-making work of the cross (1:20) should live with any hatred or contempt for each other in their hearts. The Christian congregation should be a realm of peace just because every Christian is totally committed to the rule of peace. When Christ rules in the heart, his peace will rule in the fellowship”
As churches, we are those who share in the astonishing benefits of Jesus’ great peace-making work on the cross, we have been reconciled to God through His sacrificial death.
Therefore it is unacceptable that we tolerate disunity in our lives and our relationships within the church. When we do tolerate disunity or disfunction, when we hold on to unforgiveness and bitterness in the church what we in fact are showing is that Christ is not ruling in that place in our hearts, because when Christ does rule, His rule brings peace and brings unity amongst us.
So here is the paradox, churches are communities with close relationships shared by Christ followers who are all on the same inelegant journey towards greater Christlikeness, and yet all who are on that journey are at various points along on it and so its guaranteed that there will be hurt, disappointment and conflict and yet we are those who have submitted to the rule of Christ and His rule is grace, mercy, patience, kindness and peace!
Therefore, may we be both less surprised when there is relational difficulty in the church and may we be more Christ-like in our determination to resolve conflict, to be peace-makers.
May we remind ourselves constantly of how God has treated us (the gospel) and determine to treat those whom God loves and whom God has saved and whom God has placed us into community with – with the same grace, mercy, forgiveness patience and kindness God has given to us.
Is there anyone you need to forgive or reconcile with?
What is stopping you? Is it really a valid reason?
Does it trump these commands from Scripture and the law of Christ?
Watching a documentary series on television, I became intrigued by the strength of the family bond. In this series, the presenter and staff pull out all the stops in an impressive detective display, reuniting long lost family members – adopted children seeking biological parents, children raised by single mothers searching for their father, parents looking for children with whom they’ve lost contact due to broken relationships…
And each time the reunion confirms this one fact – there is a link between members of the same family that spans continents and cultures. Parents never forget the children born to them, and children have an unidentifiable want that is only satisfied by either meeting their parents, or at least gaining a better perspective and more information on who they were.
So the story of Joseph intrigued me. Here is a much loved son, who is betrayed by his brothers and becomes traumatically lost to his family. He goes through a series of trails, pain and unfair situations. But eventually God turns it all around and he becomes a super-powerful person in a super-powerful nation.
And after many years, he comes face to face again with his family. The intricate storyline that follows may be a reflection of the deep emotional turmoil he experiences. Surely that same strong family bond identified in the stories I mentioned above made him want to be reunited with his family? But he doesn’t know whether he can allow himself to trust them again. They were, after all, to blame for the trials he had experienced.
So, he tests them. And he finds them changed men.
Genesis 45 paints a touching portrait of a powerful man exposing his vulnerability – weeping aloud “so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it.” (v 2). Maybe all the years of pain also came to the surface.
Joseph shows tremendous spiritual maturity when he reveals his identity to his brothers. He is able to forgive them. But even more than that – he is able to look past the people who should carry the blame, and see the hand of God.
I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now, do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. (v 5-8 – my emphasis)
What a perspective!
With distance in space and time from all that happened, God had revealed to Joseph that His plan was at play here and ultimately it was not even limited to Joseph’s good, but would benefit a whole nation.
Of course, with hindsight one can more easily identify the hand of God in troublesome situations or relationships that cause your life to take a different direction. It should give us hope and increase our faith in God for each subsequent trial.
Because blaming people cannot give our pain purpose. God, who knows the end from the beginning, uses every person and circumstance in our lives to bring His purpose to fulfillment.
Letting go of blame and the need for justice (or revenge), allows us to love again.
Blaming people obstructs our eternal perspective, obscures our view to God. Forgiveness is an act of faith. It expresses our trust in the goodness and faithfulness of God. It acknowledges that God is omniscient, all-powerful, eternal and always fully in control.
by Lise Oosthuizen
I think it would be easy to forgive Puss in Boots for just about anything. With his eyes all big and glossy, your heart starts to melt and you feel all sorts of soft emotions. But what about the people who really hurt us in life? The ones who often don’t ask for our forgiveness and don’t even apologise?
If we wait for a Puss in Boots moment with people who have wronged us, we will be waiting for a very long time.
Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling.
One of my worst qualities is that I am unforgiving. If I am honest, I don’t quite like the concept of forgiveness, yet I know this is something God has told us to do seventy-seven times. I seem to have an acute sense of what is fair and I tend to be quite spiteful at times. These are terrible qualities.
Because of this in me, you would understand then, why the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant drives me absolutely insane. Everything cries out within me; this is not fair!!
Matthew 18:21-35 tells the story of a servant who owed the king ten thousand talents. He was unable to settle his debt and the king wanted to put him in jail, but the man fell to his knees and begged for mercy. The king had compassion on the man and decided to cancel the debt entirely.
But as soon as the man left the king, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundren denarii and demanded payment. The servant begged the man to be patient with him, but he had the servant thrown in jail until he could pay off the full debt.
The man went from having huge debt cancelled in an instant, to punishing a fellow servant for a small debt owed to him. But we get so caught up in what the man did to a fellow servant, overlooking that we are that same man! We do this to each other all the time. We punish each other for things done against us rather than forgive one another freely.
We have a wonderful example to follow. The King cancelled our debt instantly when we asked Him to forgive us. He didn’t weigh up all our wrongs to see if we deserved His forgiveness and He didn’t make us do something for Him first either. Yet we are still unforgiving in nature.
God does not half-heartedly forgive us and neither should we half-heartedly forgive others. We need to be asking God to give us perspective of the sins we have been forgiven for, in light of the sin that has been done against us.
Unforgiveness is something that needs to be dealt with aggressively.
God commanded us to love one another. When we are unforgiving and bitter towards someone, we are not loving that person the way God has called us to.
Joshua Harris points out that the cross is unassailable proof that we can be and are forgiven.
We need to see the cross not only as something done for us, but something that was done BY us.
If we can send Christ to the cross and still be reconciled to God, then we can forgive sin that has been committed against us. “Withholding forgiveness is a form of reverse pride that says ‘MY standards are higher than God’s’. This makes you the saviour”.
He does not repay us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our inequities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our trangressions from us.
In closing, I’d like to add that choosing to forgive the people who have wronged us does not mean that God did not weep over the pain we felt. God is not detached and distant from what we feel. He will judge everyone accordingly one day, just as the king dealt with the servant in the parable. But we need to leave this judgement up to God.
Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. For it is written: “it is mine to avenge: I will repay” says the Lord.
One of my best qualities is Jesus.
I will forgive.
By Samantha Schreiner